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Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water


Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water Cover

ISBN13: 9780140178241
ISBN10: 0140178244
Condition: Standard
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Peter Saucerman, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Peter Saucerman)
25 years on, Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert remains the seminal record of water wars in the arid West. As we experience volatile climate change and staggering public debt, the follies of more than a century by the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation set the stage for the mess we are in today out in the West. This remains one of the finest examples of non-fiction writing of our time; it is a joy to read and re-read.
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Bernadette, May 14, 2011 (view all comments by Bernadette)
This is my favorite non-fiction book!! I'm stealing part of 2 reviews from a few guys on Better World Books that sums up my thoughts better than I could...and I completely reiterate that the PBS 4-part series (which I got from the local library) is HIGHLY recommended:

Randy from The United States | Aug 31, 2008 : I read this for a book club and the four of us used it as a springboard for literally hours of conversation. This should be required reading for anyone who claims to be an informed citizen living in the American West.

Max from Portland, OR | Mar 4, 2011
In 1986, Marc Reisner published a book called Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water. In it, Reisner fastidiously documents the appropriation of the West’s most valuable resources, water. The book, now 20 years old, prophetically detailed many of the problems of water supply and land degradation that we are now facing today. Water is the lifeblood of humanity and how we care for this resource will determine our fate. Cadillac Desert is scathing critique of American policy on water development, specifically towards the Bureau of Reclamation’s gun-slinging approach towards dam building. This book was the seminal work on water development and it reverberations will continue for however long we live in the Western United States.

In all of Marc Reisner's work, he explores the relation humans have with their environment and how we have put extreme amounts of stress on that relationship. Throughout Cadillac Desert, Reisner describes the extent to which the government has augmented the environment of California, as succinctly described here:

"The whole state thrives, even survives, by moving water from where it is, and presumably isn't needed, to where it isn't, and presumably is needed. No other state has done as much to fructify its deserts, make over its flora and fauna, and rearrange the hydrology God gave it. No other place has put as many people where they probably have no business being. There is no place like it anywhere on earth. Thirty-one million people (more than the population of Canada), an economy richer than all but seven nations' in the world, one third of the table food grown in the United States---and none of it remotely conceivable within the preexisting natural order (333)."

Before Cadillac Desert, people looked at dams and other water developments as an example of human ingenuity and necessary for continued human existence. These leviathan alterations though have left nature severely scarred and Reisner uncompromisingly details the effects uncontrolled water development has had.
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Product Details

Reisner, Marc
Penguin Books
New York, N.Y., U.S.A. :
Description and travel
United states
Environmental Conservation & Protection
West (u.s.)
United States - State & Local
Water resources development
Political corruption
Political corruption -- West (U.S.) -- History.
United States - State & Local - General
Environmental - Water Supply
General Nature
Irrigation -- Government policy.
Environmental Engineering-Water Supply
Edition Number:
Rev. and updated
Edition Description:
Revised and Upd
Series Volume:
Bd. 17
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
8.36x5.52x1.09 in. 1.05 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Engineering » Environmental Engineering » Water Supply
Featured Titles » General
History and Social Science » Americana » General
History and Social Science » Americana » Western States
Reference » Science Reference » General
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Air and Water
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Geology » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Biology

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water Used Trade Paper
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$11.50 In Stock
Product details 608 pages Penguin Books - English 9780140178241 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Reisner captures Western water history in Cinemascope and Technicolor. Cadillac Desert is timely and of national importance. Hurry up and read this book."
"Review" by , "A revealing, absorbing, often amusing, and alarming report."
"Synopsis" by ,
"Beautifully written and meticulously researched."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This updated study of the economics, politics, and ecology of water covers more than a century of public and private desert reclamation in the American West.
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